Shari Bayer smiles while holding a copy of her book "Cherfwise"

Catching Up with Shari Bayer

The hospitality PR veteran stopped by ICE’s New York campus to share both industry and life advice

Shari Bayer is living her best life. Having spent over 30 years in the food and beverage industry, she’s worked in jobs across the board, including working the restaurant floor as a server, interning at a trade publication and founding her own hospitality-focused PR firm, Bayer Public Relations. 

She insists her whole career has happened by accident.

“I didn’t plan anything,” she says. “I didn’t plan to work at [Charlie] Trotter’s. I just found a love for restaurants.”

The pressure was suddenly on for Ms. Bayer — right out of the gate. She worked at Charlie Trotter’s glamorous eponymous restaurant in Chicago for a year while they were celebrating their 10-year milestone.

“I’m a hard worker — but I always think that might have been the hardest job I’ve ever had,” she says. "Expectations were so high, and to be responsible for that was challenging.”

In 1998 she moved to New York and enrolled in the food studies program at NYU before nabbing an internship at the (now shuttered) Food Arts magazine. In 2000, she landed an opportunity to work at KB Network News, a public relations company by Karine Bakhoum.

“There weren’t as many PR agencies at the time specializing in hospitality and culinary,” Ms. Bayer says.

At the time, the firm’s clients included Todd English, Bobby Flay, Sushisamba, Tao and Lotus. 

This spring, Ms. Bayer dropped her first book, “Chefwise: Life Lessons from Leading Chefs Around the World” with Phaidon Press. “Chefwise” features 117 chefs from around the globe, offering their inspiration, advice and life lessons from both in and out of the kitchen.

Ms. Bayer recently stopped by ICE’s New York campus for a panel discussion to share her own life experiences with students and alumni.

There are 117 chefs featured in “Chefwise.” How did you manage that?

This was a dream project for me — I love restaurants. I love chefs. I’m also a very big solo diner and traveler. And that’s how I have a lot of relationships with chefs because I’ve gone around the world and dined at a lot of amazing restaurants. So in starting this book, the process was that I made a very long list of potential chefs that could be in the book. And the goal was to have over 100 chefs, and we wanted to cover the whole world, not just the US. And then from there I put together questions of potential chapters and then I started outreach. I asked them if they wanted to participate and the response was across the board was fabulous. 

“Chefwise” dives into mentorships. In the Leadership chapter, it’s stated that “a young cook should look for someone who is willing to teach you, listen to you, and drive you to succeed. Who are your mentors? 

I feel like I don’t have one person who really molded me…going back to Charlie Trotter, I think he shaped my career so much. In my 20s I had a lot of jobs. I think Karine at KB, that shaped my pr career and I think the chefs I’ve worked with over the years, I’ve just been very lucky to see the industry through their light and see how hard they work. 

And Michael Batterberry at Food Arts magazine. I remember going into the editorial meetings and Michael would turn to me and say, “so what do you think?” He wanted to know my opinion. That was a gift, the man was full of so much wisdom.

This book is all about advice from those that we admire in the industry. Do you have any final nuggets of advice you’d like to offer to our students?

Just go for it. Do you. People think I’m brave for traveling around the world by myself or dining by myself at a white tablecloth restaurant. I’m not — I don’t think I’m brave. I’m just doing what works for me. And so I think you just have to do what works for you. And I work really hard…I think I would just say if you’re passionate about something, go for it and work hard. You can do anything. 

How has networking impacted your career?

I work for myself and I do a lot by myself. I go to events by myself. And that’s an opportunity to meet people…that’s how I’ve met so many chefs, so many people in the industry, because I go to a lot of things. Through living in New York, there’s tons of events all the time. Organizations like Les Dames d’Escoffier, Women’s Culinary Alliance, James Beard Foundation…and I think that’s one of the reasons I know so many chefs and so many people in the industry, because I’ve just put myself out there. Being a part of the community I think is a very important part of what I do.

Why is marketing and PR important for this industry?

It’s competitive out there. It’s not brain surgery — I don’t think to do PR, but it’s a full-time job. It’s having relationships…and especially in New York, there’s restaurants opening all the time. And when I started, it was before social media. There was email, [but] you had to pitch via email. I think PR is hard — it’s challenging…it’s very important.

More Like This: Insights Into the Hospitality & Management Industry

Add new comment